Written by Jarryd Barca
Come-from-behind win seals Cannons’ finals berth
They did it the hard way, but Calder has secured its position in the NAB League finals with a heart-stopping six-point win over Tasmania during Wildcard Round.
The Cannons suffered an after-the-siren loss against the ladder-leading Ranges last weekend.
But in a change of fortuity, this time they ran over the top of the Devils who were looking to take a scalp and enter the finals proper from 13th position.
Tasmania held a five-point three-quarter time advantage which had Calder staring down the barrel of a second-successive Wildcard Round defeat, having been pipped by the Geelong Falcons in 2018.
And with their season on the line, the desperate Cannons booted the opening three goals of the final quarter to record the 9.9 (63) to 7.15 (57) victory and keep their season alive.
Assistant coach Chris Nolan said he was pleased with the boys’ efforts to rally behind each other and edge past the Devils.
“It probably started in the middle,” he said.
“Hotch (ruckman Josh Hotchkin) was enormous for us today. We got first use, the ball started going forward a bit more consistently than it had all day and we probably made the most of some more opportunities.”
Tasmania continued to threat in the last term and put Cannons defenders under pressure with a 17 inside 50 effort, compared to Calder’s 11.
But many stood tall for their teammates when the going got tough.
“I thought our defence was really good, especially late,” Nolan said.
“Keeps (Jack Keeping) was phenomenal on a wing in the last quarter and admittedly he’d been down to that point, so to keep his head up, stay positive and have an impact says a bit about Jack and how far his footy’s come.
“The skipper was good as always – just read the flight of the ball and him and Cody Brand were both exceptional late in defence.”
No strangers to a nail-biter, the past three Cannons matches have all finished with an accumulative margin of just 14 points.
Their ability to respond when challenged and overcome adversity is a trait the Nolan believes will hold them in good stead this finals series.
“I think there’s a real connection in the group. We seem a lot more united now than we did after say four rounds, we know each other’s strengths and we have a great trust in each other,” he said.
“We’ve got every faith that the group can still go for a few weeks yet, providing they play their best football.”
Sam Ramsay was yet again the most prolific in the engine room, amassing 33 disposals and 11 marks at Highgate Recreation Reserve.
Midfield counterpart Harry Minton-Connell (19 touches) played a pivotal role – with the first two goals of the last quarter both coming off his boot.
But the road blocks for Tasmania were Campbell Edwardes and Lachlan Gollant, who both combined for an impressive – and equally crucial – 19 marks.
Nolan said it was cleaner ball movement moving forward in the final stanza that enabled the Cannons to make the most of their slim opportunities.
“Having only gone inside 50 12 times in a half, a little bit more hand ball receive – which we seemed to get through Simpson and the like, Curtis Brown off half back – was the key,” he said.
“They dictated us a lot with their pressure and tackling in the first half and we really let them off. But we were a lot more cautious with the footy in the second half.
“We were able to get it on our terms at the right times to hold on.”
Calder will take on the eighth-placed Dandenong Stingrays in an elimination final this Sunday at Ikon Park.
The two sides previously met back in Round 13 where the Cannons showed no mercy in a 68-point drubbing at Highgate Recreation Reserve.